The Monkey Island games have been around for over thirty years, with the newest title releasing in 2022. While the series may not be the most popular and successful video game franchise, it has a dedicated fan base. The simple pirate adventure point-and-click games have stood the test of time and are influential on gaming as a whole. Today we break down every game in the series and put them in order by release (for your convenience).
The Secret of Monkey Island (1990)
The Secret of Monkey Island is the first game in the point-and-click adventure series. The game was the brainchild of Ron Gilbert, who wanted to make an adventure about exploration. Tired of titles from that time revolving around trial and error and death, Gilbert made death almost impossible in the game. This game set up series staples, including its humorous dialogue, and is one of the first games to give players a dialogue tree when conversing.
Players control Guybrush Threepwood as he journeys to Melee Island in hopes of becoming a pirate. He is tasked with three trials by the island’s pirate leaders, all of which must be completed to become a pirate. Along the way, Guybrush meets colorful characters and hears the tale of LeChuck, a pirate who died on his way to explore Monkey Island. LeChuck returns from the dead with his crew and kidnaps the Governor’s daughter, Elaine, who Guybrush has fallen for. It’s up to the player to get her back and travel to Monkey Island to put a stop to LeChuck once and for all.
The game was remade in 2009 with The Secret of Monkey Island: Special Edition. The edition features updated visuals, musical scores, voice acting, and a hint system. It provides a new generation of players with the same thrilling and hilarious story while making the game more appealing with modern graphics and mechanics.
Monkey Island 2: LeChuck’s Revenge (1991)
After the moderately successful first game, critics and fans alike highly anticipated Monkey Island 2: LeChuck’s Revenge. The game received more focus from the dev team, who expanded the art department. The sequel’s backgrounds are highly detailed and a big improvement from The Secret of Monkey Island. The team also remained relatively the same, meaning the humor, dialogue, and story were well thought out. Despite the game’s positive reception among critics, it experienced disappointing sales due to the simultaneous release of titles like King’s Quest from Sierra Online.
The game again places players in the role of Guybrush, who falls victim to a robbery by LeChuck’s former first mate, Largo LeGrande. After a series of events, including creating a voodoo doll, LeChuck returns to life as a zombie. It’s up to Guybrush to collect parts of a treasure map that will help him find “Big Whoop.” The treasure is the only sure way to stop both LeCuck and Largo.
The game received a remake in 2010 with Monkey Island 2: LeChuck’s Revenge: Special Edition. This edition features improvements like a hint system, voice-overs, audio, and updated graphics. It was released following the remake of the Secret of Monkey Island: Special Edition, helping bring in new players who may be turned off by the outdated pixel style from the early 90s. However, this edition does remove “lite” mode but it allows players to swap between the updated version and the original game.
The Curse of Monkey Island (1997)
The Curse of Monkey Island was a step in a new direction for the series. It was the final release for LucasArts that used the SCUMM engine, which was upgraded for the game. The first thing players will notice is the art direction which is now cartoon-like. While the previous installments relied on pixel art, The Curse of Monkey Island used cel animation that resembles more of a children’s television show. The game also received more quality-of-life changes, like cues for interactable objects and people, keyboard shortcuts, and right-clicking to talk. Also, this was the first game in the series released on CD-ROM, meaning it had musical scores, fully animated cutscenes, and voice acting.
Taking place after the events from Monkey Island 2: LeChuck’s Revenge, Guybrush and Elaine are captured by LeChuck after a siege. Guybrush unknowingly proposes to Elaine with a cursed diamond that turns her into solid gold. After being taken away by LeChuck’s crew, Guybrush my journey to save her and lift the curse.
Escape from Monkey Island (2000)
Escape from Monkey Island takes big leaps compared to its predecessors. While The Curse of Monkey Island featured more quality-of-life updates and what felt like an updated culmination of the first two games, the fourth game tried new mechanics. Escape from Monkey Island is fully 3D and uses keyboard or joystick controls, making it the only game in the series that’s not point-and-click. While the game generally did well among critics, some noted the complex controls and the new “Monkey Kombat” mechanic.
However, the game continues the story with Guybrush and Elaine returning from their honeymoon. Upon arrival, they discover that Eliane has been declared dead, with her position in government revoked and her house scheduled for demolition. Charles L. Charles leads the election for governor, but Guybrush soon discovers a haunting discovery about him.
Tales of Monkey Island (2009)
Tales of Monkey Island reverts back to the point-and-click style of adventure that made the series iconic while also being fully 3D. However, the release of this game was different from most other games. The game consists of five episodes for players to journey through, each released at different times. The first episode was released in July 2009, and the fifth was released in December 2009. Tales of Monkey Island is similar to The Curse of Monkey Island as both were updated versions of the first two games that fit with their time. Staying on formula is key for the Monkey Island series, as fans have expectations for the dialogue, characters, and story.
Like the previous games, Guybrush and Elaine are back with LeChuck, who gets turned back into a human. However, while trying to defeat him, Guybrush is infected with “Pox of LeChuck,” a voodoo virus that spreads around the Gulf of Melange. Guybrush and Eliane seek out a cure before he falls victim to the plague along with the rest of the island.
Return to Monkey Island (2022)
Return to Monkey Island is the most recent title and provides players with a modern take on the series. The creator of the franchise, Ron Gilbert, returned to work on the game with his last game being Monkey Island 2: LeChuck’s Revenge. The graphics and art style return to a 2D format with an almost paper mache-like character design. The UI has changed with a number of quality-of-life improvements. Players can now see what action Guybrush will take by hovering over an item or NPC. This change brings much-needed transparency instead of guessing what will happen. It was also configured for both mice and controllers.
The series gets a new character with Guybrush and Elaine’s son, Boybrush. The story players follow is a story being told to Boybrush by Guybrush. Players go back in time as Guybrush explains how he found the secret of Monkey Island.
The image featured at the top of this post is ©Screenshot from Return to Monkey Island..